Why Josh Hamilton getting released by Rangers isn't the end for him

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Officially, Josh Hamilton’s second tour with the Texas Rangers came to an end Tuesday, as the club activated him from the 60-day disabled list then promptly put him on unconditional release waivers. Unofficially, though, Hamilton could be back with the Rangers next season.

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The 35-year-old outfielder and former AL MVP hasn’t played at all this year after season-ending knee surgery in June, his third procedure on his knee since last September.

The Rangers are leading the AL West right now, but they’re also thinking ahead to next season. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, releasing Hamilton has everything to do with making sure he can be an active player next season if he’s indeed healthy.

By releasing him before September 1, the Rangers can re-sign him to a minor league contract and have him in the majors before May 15 of next season. If they released him after September 1, they would be prohibited from bringing him to the majors before the May 15 date.

“We plan to monitor Josh’s progress as he continues his rehab process and is medically cleared this winter,” General Manager Jon Daniels said in a statement. “Given the rules in place, releasing him before the end of this month allows us to keep the door open to extending the relationship in the future.”

The Rangers released Josh Hamilton on Tuesday but he could be back next season. (AP)
The Rangers released Josh Hamilton on Tuesday but he could be back next season. (AP)

None of this is a surprise to Hamilton either, as he recently told reporters that he expected to be released before the season was over and hoped to return to the Rangers.

Texas has proven to be Hamilton’s safe space. He rejuvenated his career there, winning the 2010 MVP there before departing for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013. In SoCal, he disappointed both on the field and off it, admitting to a drug relapse last season before being traded back to the Texas, under an agreement that saw the Angels paying most of his salary.

Despite his release, Hamilton will still be paid the $28.4 million he’s owed in 2017. Only about $2 million will come from the Rangers, though. The plan is they’d then sign him to a cheap minor-league deal if he’s ready to play.

While this “release” seems to mostly be a procedural move, it goes to show when it comes to getting Josh Hamilton back on a baseball field, nothing is ever as simple as it could be.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!